The Journal of Micar’eyl Auvrymtor: My Sister, Faeryl
So we’re still in the Great Forge of Gauntlgrym, deciding what to do next. I’m beginning to feel pretty heat-exhausted and beginning to lose focus.
I’m barely aware that Seipora is droning on about how the genealogies she took from the tombs shows that the Delzoun dwarves didn’t use hereditary monarchy. Yes, Seipora, I’m sure Ohgma will pat you on the head for documenting the governmental system of a long-dead dwarven state. I do wonder if it was a frustrated king candidate who let the orcs in so long ago.
Valtha is doing some sort of necromancy, questioning dwarven ghosts who apparently haven’t heard that there’s a whole afterlife out there and departed to it forthwith. She thinks she can forge the ghosts into magical weapons for the colonization expedition, assuming we can ever get them in here. You would think that would be blasphemous and wrong or something, but I suppose she’s the expert on dwarven soul ethics.
I’m not going to stay in this heat while she does it, though. Seipora, Rodrik, and I leave to scout a good place to try and set up that teleportation circle while Cefrey assists Valtha in making the soul-blades.
My studies with the Illiyanbruen have helped me bone up on enough teleportation magic to realize that the key component is a vial of liquid silver. This is what House Xorlarrin was going to use to connect the circle here to the circle back wherever they have their base (probably Menzoberranzan). I figure we’ll have to find a substitute before we can make our own circle, something we can key to the other side.
While the three of us are putzing around the temple area trying to figure things out, we get attacked by a small pack of dire corbies. Even with only half the group present we’re dispatching them pretty handily (Seipora makes a great wall). As we do so, though, there are some serious tremors as the entire cavern shakes. Since the heat and pressure here are not due to any natural elemental forces, but rather the presence of Maegera, that’s even more disturbing than you might expect at first.
Rodrik runs off to the Forge to see if he can help. Me, I don’t rush. I figure if it’s all going up there’s nothing I can do, so I might as well avoid dying tired. Instead Seipora and I take the time to scout out the temple to Moradin and conclude that would be the best place to lay the Gauntlgrym side of our circle. The tremors do indeed cease after a short while.
Sauntering back over to the forge, we meet up with Valatha, Cefrey, and Rodrik. Apparently making the weapons drew a little too much on Maegera’s power and risked wakening her. It? Cefrey is quite steamed about the whole thing, and I mean that both literally and figuratively as she is both angry at Valtha and physically smoldering. Apparently she and Guldor were exposed to a lot of elemental fire in the process of helping shut Maegera down. That kind of power leaves a mark. I think both of them will always be touched by primordial power from now on. It looks good on them, I think: gives their eyes an interesting golden glow in the darkness. Not that Gauntlegrym is dark, because obviously the humans in the group have required no light source ever since we got down here, not at all.
Anyway, Valtha is forced to agree about where to put the teleportation circle, though we can tell her heart wishes it could be the temple of Dumathoin. So the next step is to get some appropriate metal as a substitute. Most of the precious metals around here were looted by the duergar. As we had about decided we need to go through them anyway to get out, that wraps up quite neatly. So to review what we know about the duergar, they have a sizable population of slaves mining hellthorn, including dire corbies, kobolds, and some others picked up from Underdark slave markets.
That’s when a certain drow of my acquaintance appears in front of us. It’s Jarlaxle Baenre of Bregan D’aerthe, at our service! I think I’m happier to see the boss than everyone else, which is fair enough, but I know having him at our sides ups our odds considerably. I introduce him to our new recruit Guldor. Naturally everyone wants to know how he got inside, but he is typically Jarlaxle-evasive about it. I don’t even try. He probably hid himself in one of the duergar supply caravans or utilized some personal magics he doesn’t want to talk about or something like that.
I brief the boss on the situation with Maegera and how we could be looking at doom in less than a year. He’s able to offer a little insight on where we might find the mechanisms to repair the broken bowl. According to Seipora, the magical style behind the elemental water bindings looks an awful lot like the constructs of Neverwinter’s old Waterclock Guild. Jarlaxle tells us that Lucan Greenharrow, a former member of the Arcane Brotherhood, helped start the Waterclock Guild. Many of the Brotherhood’s secrets (and remember they are the heirs of the Grand Cabal, ancient Illuskan liches who were privy to the very magics used to raise the Host Tower in the first place) made their way south with him. Greenharrow himself is long dead, but there is a crypt in Neverwinter’s graveyard where they have buried many of their arcane secrets.
We talk about getting some help on this, but the boss is skeptical. He claims that many would actually want to release the primordial. Certainly Thay and Netheril and the aboleths all would welcome it. Presumably with the former two not believing it would actually end the world, but rather just result in the Sword Coast getting a good stomping before the gods bind up Maegera again.
Of course in explaining all this, we touch on Jarlaxle’s previous visit to Gauntlgrym. Visits, plural, in fact. Valtha demands details the and boss obliges. The first time he came was 30 years ago, when he and a dwarf friend of his named Athrogate were brought in by the Thayans. He thought they were just being hired as mercenaries, as you do, but it turns out the Thayans wanted to use Athrogate’s Delzoun heritage to release Maegera. They used some sort of enchantment to control him and forced him to activate the mechanism. The idea was that Maegera’s rampage would cause enough death to activate their Dread Ring, which Szass Tam could use for a second bid at godhood. Jarlaxle is a little vague on how it all played out, but apparently it was only a partial success. They caused the eruption but failed to release the primordial. Jarlaxle promised Athrogate that they would put things right.
Jarlaxle came back about ten years ago (again, he is vague on how he got in), fighting the Thayans again and apparently putting an end to their access to Gauntlgrym once and for all. He found the broken bowl at that time and has been trying to figure out what to do about it ever since. Valtha is pretty sarcastic about him not managing to accomplish more in ten years, but Jarlaxle argues back that he’s been busy stalemating all the parties who want to release Maegera so she should just back off.
Personally, I get it. It’s not like the Bregan D’aerthe are his servants, so the boss had to do a lot of this himself. Not knowing who to trust, trying to juggle a lot of things … I can sympathize. As usual Jarlaxle is trying to play it all light-hearted and pretending he doesn’t take it too seriously, but I see through him. All of this business really matters to him. By Selûne boss, who are you trying to fool? Really, I don’t know why some people have to play everything off all the time and can’t admit when they care.
Cefrey is not so understanding. She flips her shit when she finds out that Jarlaxle was involved in the eruption, even if he protests he was merely a pawn of the Thayans (like the Uthgardt, he points out). You know, the eruption where her husband and child died and she plunged into a years-long despair? Okay, I get why she’s mad and wants someone to take it out on. She calls Jarlaxle worthless and tries to punch him, but he smoothly sidesteps. Luckily she doesn’t try to escalate to her axe — her creepy newly ghost-haunted axe — and actually make this a fight. Instead she declares she’s not going to talk to him anymore.
Rodrik and Seipora are just kind of, “Uh, we don’t want to be involved in this.” I sympathize.
Anyway, drama worked out for the moment, we go to fight a bunch of duergar who have gathered in the plaza in response to the tremors. A bunch of them are riding their giant spider steeders. We defeat them pretty handily with Jarlaxle on our side. Not to get all soppy, but his bladework is like a dance. He hops around the battlefield and evil dwarves and spiders fall down dead in his wake. He does it all with such style, too. What a guy! Days like this it’s easy to see how he’s able to lead the Bregan D’aerthe so easily. It’s just that few people can challenge him, but you sort of don’t want to. You’d rather see what he’s going to do next.
Then the boss drops a drama bomb on me, which you know he had been saving until it was most amusing. He tells me that among the duergar slaves is Faeryl Auvrymtor, my little sister. I take a moment to process this. I was never exactly close to my family — that’s not something that Menzoberranzan really encourages — but still, we were the only people each other could count on. Me against my sister, my sister and I against our Matron Mother, and me, my sister, and our Matron Mother against the world, as the saying goes. There’s an awful lot of world.
Faeryl was just a brat when the house fell. I can’t imagine she’s grown very magnificent in slavery. Yet still, after turning it over in my mind, I want to see her. I brief Rodrik and explain that rescuing Faeryl has to be a mission priority. Thankfully he doesn’t give me any guff about it.
On that theory and because we want to cause some chaos, we head to the slave warrens first once we’re in the duergar mines. Faeryl is indeed there and we are able to free her and I guess some other slaves I don’t really care about. Oh well, Rodrik helps by being all inspirational and getting the slaves to trust us and rise against their masters so we don’t have beat them down when we free them. We keep Faeryl and send the others off to kill duergar and fight for freedom.
Faeryl’s story is pretty short. She was bought at the slave market after the fall of the house and has been abused horribly as a slave ever since. The end. Uh, wow, kind of disappointing. I mean, I’m not blaming her, but I was nurturing a sort of hope that she had some kind of incredible career of adventure and daring deeds and was but briefly captured as a slave a short time ago, already planning her escape. Her actual story is just sad and depressing. I guess I’ll have to take responsibility and look after her until I can get her on her feet and ready to make a place in the world.
An unfortunate corollary is that she has in no way shaken off the Lloth bullshit we were fed. In fact, living as a slave has made her basically mythologize her life in House Auvrymtor as the only time she was happy and powerful (and the two are completely inseparable to her), and she is all about us teaming up to raise it up and bring it back. Which is not going to happen, but I feel so bad about telling her that. I temporize by telling her she should take a year off to recover and live it up.
Faeryl doesn’t have much useful to say about how she got into Gauntlgrym. Apparently they were brought in blindfolded and muzzled. She doesn’t know much about the interior of the mines, but we can guess there is a pretty good size colony of duergar, maybe 1,000 of them and 3,000 slaves. A slave rebellion might solve our problem, but only if we can decapitate their leadership.
We head to their central temple to Asmodeus and fight their high priest, who summons a devil in his defense. I give Faeryl a dagger, not expecting her to use it, but she rushes into the fight looking for her chance to get some revenge. Nearly gets herself killed too, because apparently her time as a slave has erased nearly all her useful combat skills. I’m only barely able to save her with some healing magic. On the plus side, she is the one to stab and kill the high priest when he tries to turn invisible and escape. And continues to stab him. And continues with the stabbing more and more … I think she has some things to work out here, so I leave her to mutilating the corpse. Hopefully it brings her some peace.
Well, I’m papering things over. The truth is Faeryl and I argue again after the fight. I guess I’ve never been much of a bullshitter, always had trouble holding my tongue. I tell her the truth about Lloth and Menzoberranzan. She’s not happy to hear it. I don’t know; maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but maybe this is the best time to try to get new ideas in her head. Anyway one thing we can both agree on is screw House Xorlarrin. She’s at least on board with giving the city to the dwarves if it keeps it out of their hands.
We find the precious metals we need and bring it back to Moradin’s central temple in the Iron Tabernacle to inlay the teleportation circle. That goes pretty well, but it doesn’t get us out of the city.
That’s when a duergar shows up under a flag of truce. He tells us his name is is Nimor Ironvice and he can see the winds of change are blowing even down here. He knows we need a way out and he knows the way out. In return he wants us to stop our campaign against Mordai Vell in Neverwinter (that is, Rodrik needs to call off his investigation) and recognize his claim on the hellthorn mines.
There is some back and forth on this. Valtha is negotiating pretty strongly, bargaining him down to one hellthorn mine, owned by a Delzoun dwarf of Nimor’s choosing, with the option to buy more as any other dwarven citizen might. That’s pretty good! Rodrik is less willing, but he might have come around if Seipora hadn’t made this inspiring speech about how we don’t need to make deals with evil and we can find our own way out. So in the end we tell Goodsir Ironvice where he can stick his deal. Faeryl and Cefrey kind of want to kill him, but that wouldn’t be honorable under a flag of truce, so he walks out unharmed.
I follow him and kill him. I think that’s within the bounds of honor? What? We let him leave the building and walk away. If he wanted to be safe after that he should have got himself a better escort We’re at war with the duergar and under no obligation to give him safety forever. Aw, look at me, the old Selûne-worshipping softie. I can’t believe I’m feeling the need to justify a killing! Of a duergar, no less!
Totally justified. Be part of a society that keeps my sister as a slave, will you, asshole?
We make an attempt to find our way out, but as Ironvice suggested, it’s not that easy. There’s apparently a reason that hundreds of dwarves searching for decades couldn’t find a way in here. Jarlaxle seems to slip away easily enough, though.
Seipora comes through on her promise, though. She realizes that there is one path we can follow: the elemental connection between the Great Forge and the Host Tower of the Arcane. The elemental power flowing through it is like a guideline we can use to keep us from veering off track. We can follow it through the Underdark and emerge in Luskan, the brutal City of Anarchy, Neverwinter’s most ancient and hated enemy, inside the huge dungeon controlled by a mad lich who now has no other agendas, interests, or hobbies but our destruction — but beggars can’t be choosers. Well, we would have had to take on Valindra sooner or later anyway.
To Luskan we go!